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Tom’s Guide
Tom’s Guide
Philip Michaels

iOS 18 apps: 7 biggest rumored updates

Unofficial iOS 18 logo on an iPhone.

It's safe to say it's been a long time since an iOS software update generated as much anticipation as this year's upcoming iOS 18 release has. We're a little less than two months away from a preview of the software — and many more months away from its full release — but iOS 18 is already being touted as one of the most significant updates in Apple's history.

That's mainly because Apple is likely to rely heavily on artificial intelligence for many of iOS 18's upgrades as the company looks to play catch-up with other tech giants already incorporating AI more aggressively into their products. Rumored changes to iOS 18 include large language modules (LLM), generative AI features and a revamped Siri that can respond to more complex requests.

While AI figures to grab the spotlight in any iOS 18 discussion, it's not the only change to keep an eye on — and we're not talking about the rumored redesign of Apple's iPhone software that's also apparently in the works. iOS updates bring new features to existing apps, and though Apple may be concentrating on system-wide improvements this time around, iOS 18 still figures to offer its share of app-specific updates.

We're already hearing about enhancements and new capabilities coming to your favorite built-in iPhone apps as part of iOS 18. And while some of those features figure to be part of Apple's AI push, others are the kind of improvements you'd see in any ordinary iOS update.

Expect more details to emerge as we approach WWDC 2024 and the anticipated preview for iOS 18. But here are the rumored app updates that have caught our eye so far.

iOS 18 Notes

(Image credit: Ekaterina_Minaeva / Shutterstock)

Of all the apps set for an update in iOS 18, we probably have the most detailed information about Notes, thanks to a report from Apple Insider. Apple's note-taking app should add at least two significant capabilities — the ability to include voice recordings in a note and calculator integration.

In iOS 17's Notes, you can add pictures and video, make sketches and even scan documents, but you can't embed an audio recording. That's expected to change with iOS 18, where a recorder would be embedded into the Notes app. Possible use cases include recording lectures or meetings supplemented by typed-in notes or pictures of a whiteboard that amplify what's being said in the recording.

Fewer details are available about the rumored calculator integration coming to Notes, but basically, it sounds as if the feature will allow the app to display mathematical notations. While that may not interest you, it certainly is to scientists, engineers and academics. And as Apple Insider pointed out, it would also mirror similar capabilities already included in Microsoft's OneNote.

iOS 18 Maps

(Image credit: Future)

After iOS 17 added the ability to download offline maps, iOS 18 appears to be on tap to add another capability found in other mapping applications to Apple Maps — the ability to create a custom route. Nicolás Alvarez spotted the code for the feature, and MacRumors says it's confirmed that custom routes are coming.

With custom routes, you're not limited to taking the suggested routes that Maps generates when you enter your starting point and destination. For example, when I take a road trip, I'm not always a fan of the auto-generated route Maps comes up with to get me from my home to the freeway — presumably, with custom routes, I'll be able to tweak the directions to take my preferred route. It also sounds like a feature that will come in handy if you'd like to swing by a point of interest that's not necessarily on the route Maps has suggested.

The changes to Maps in iOS 18 may not end there. There's also rumors of topographical maps coming to the app. Those are already available to Apple Watch users, and this addition would merely extend the feature to the iOS, macOS and visionOS versions of the Maps app.

iOS 18 Messages

(Image credit: Future)

We know that Apple is adding support for the Rich Communication Service (RCS) standard to the iPhone this year—the company has already said as much. We're guessing that RCS support will arrive as part of the iOS 18 update.

This won't mean an end to the green bubble-blue bubble split, as Apple isn't planning on updating its own iMessage platform. Rather, RCS support will merely be added to messaging services on the iPhone, with that support bringing a number of improvements to interplatform texting, particularly in group chats. The addition of RCS means features like emoji reactions, real-time read receipts and typing indicators will now be available when you message your Android pals.

iOS 18 Music

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Now, we're moving into areas where fewer details are available about Apple's plans — just rumors indicating that some sort of improvement will be coming to these apps in iOS 18. In the case of Apple Music, the rumored new feature involves Apple's AI efforts.

Specifically, Bloomberg has reported that AI-generated playlists are coming to Apple Music. Because that's the extent of the reporting, we don't know specifics. Still, we'd assume that you'll be able to provide specific prompts for the kinds of songs you want to hear — either music from a particular genre or songs that match your current mood — and Apple Music will assemble a playlist. We'd also assume that feature will be tied to Apple Music's subscription service, though that's just a guess on our part.

iOS 18 Pages and Keynote

These are two separate apps, but we're lumping them together here because 1) they're both on tap to get similar AI-powered improvements, and 2) there's not much in the way of details about the extent of those changes.

Nevertheless, the Pages word processing tool and the Keynote presentations app are both tipped to adapt generative AI for iOS 18. According to reports, that will mean an AI-powered writing assistant and help with deck creation for presentations. It sounds a lot like what Samsung added to its smartphones with its Galaxy AI features, which include tools to rewrite texts based on different tones and auto-formatting for notes powered by AI.

iOS 18 Freeform

(Image credit: Apple)

Freeform debuted as part of the iOS 16.2 update, giving you a tool for cross-platform collaboration on your Apple devices. The app looks to be getting a new navigational feature in iOS 18, at least if initial reports prove accurate.

Specifically, MacRumors claims that Freeform will add a new feature called Scenes that will let users designate specific sections of their whiteboard as a scene. Doing so will allow them to more easily jump back to that scene should they find themselves working elsewhere in the app.

iOS 18 Safari

Annual iOS updates usually introduce new capabilities to the Safari web browser, and it sounds like this will once again be the case for iOS 18, even if details are pretty sparse about the new additions. 

We once again turn to code found by Nicolás Álvarez that indicates Safari is getting an AI-powered browsing assistant and encrypted visual search as part of the iOS 18 update. We assume the former feature will be able to summarize the contents of websites, which is not unlike a similar capability offered by Galaxy AI. The latter addition sounds like enhanced privacy to searches.

iOS 18 app outlook

That's just a handful of the rumored changes to apps that have emerged thus far. While AI-flavored enhancements will garner most of the attention with iOS 18, we're certain that more apps will see updates of their own and that some of the apps listed here are in line for additional improvements. We'll find out for certain on June 10 when WWDC 2024 gets underway with Apple's opening keynote about the software updates it plans to introduce later this year.

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